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Interview: Anthony McCall Formalist Cinema and Politics Anthony McCall, artist andfilmmaker, was born in London in 1946. He has been a resident of New York City since 1973. His films have been shown at various internationalfestivals, and he presented a paper entitled "Film as a Connective Catalyst" to the InternationalForum of Avant-garde Film, Edinburgh , Scotland in August 1976. This interview was conducted by Gautam Dasguptain April 1976. Excerptsfrom Anthony McCall'sNotebooks precede the interview. LINE DESCRIBING A CONE August 1973 Line Describing a Cone is what I term a solid light film. It is dealing with the projected light-beam itself, rather than treating the light-beam as a mere carrier of coded information, which is decoded when it strikes a flat surface. It is projected in the normal way, on a 16mm projector. Though inevitably there will be a wall that limits the length of the beam, a screen is not necessary. The viewer watches the film by standing with his or her back towards what would normally be the screen, and looking along the beam towards the projector itself. The film begins as a coherent line of light, like a laser beam, and develops through the thirty minute duration, into a complete, hollow cone of light. Line Describinga Cone deals with one of the irreducible, necessary conditions of film: projected light. It deals with this phenomenon directly, independent of any other consideration. The film exists in real, three-dimensional space. 51 The film exists only in the present: the moment of projection. It refers to nothing beyond this real time (in contrast, most films allude to a past time). It contains no illusion. It is a primary experience, not secondary: i.e. the space is real, not referential; the time is real, not referential. No longer is one viewing position as good as any other. For this film, every viewing position presents a different aspect. The viewer, therefore, has a participatory role in apprehending the event: he or she can, indeed needs, to move around relative to the slowly emerging light-form. This is radically different from the traditional film situation which has, as its props, row upon row of seats, a giant screen and a hidden projection booth: there, the viewers sit passively in one position while the images of the film are "brought" to them; these people can only participate vicariously. LINE DESCRIBING A CONE, PARTIAL CONE, CONE OF VARIABLE VOLUME, CONICAL SOLID. March 1974 IMPORTANT CONDITIONS FOR PROJECTION I. That the projector be inside the viewing space, not hidden in a projection booth. As the focal point, and the source of the light, it is an integral part of the film. 2. That the viewing space be entirely empty of chairs or other furniture. 3. That the space be absolutely pitch dark. Owing to the delicate nature of light, even a slight spillage of ambient light can seriously affect the film's visibility. If "exit" lights cannot be put off, they should at least have their intensity reduced. 4. There is no screen. The beam merely "stops" at the wall. 5. Optimum scale: a beam length of between 18m and 36m (60 feet and 120 feet), and a frame height (at the wall) of between 1.8m and 3.6m (6 feet and 12 feet). 6. The base of the frame should rest a fraction above the line of intersection between floor and wall. The projector should stand at a height of about Im (3 feet). Outdoors, the projector should rest on or near the ground, with the base of the beam running parallel to the ground. 7. The light of the beam is visible through contact with particles in the air, be they from dust, humidity or cigarette smoke. Smoking should not be prohibited . LONG FILM FOR FOUR PROJECTORS November 1974 Though providing an enormously increased set of viewing options over the "screen" film, the "Cone" series still dictated an axis of attention which pointed to the light-source, the film-projector. This had the consistent effect of clustering the audience along the light-beam. Now. I wanted the light-beam to occupy the space in a way that did not emphasize certain...


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